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A Way to Reform Entitlements While Addressing Dysfunction in Washington Due to Lack of "Shared Sacrifice"

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I was born toward the end of World War II and I was in high school and college during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. It was a time when there was an emphasis encouraging young people to get involved in social improvement programs such as the Peace Corps (working to improve lives in foreign countries) and Job Corps (doing the same in depressed areas of U.S. cities). It was a time which saw the start of Project Head Start to give children from low-income families a start on the road to a better life with skills and knowledge to prepare them to pursue opportunities their parents may not have had.

Prior to and during the same time period, young men of every economic, educational, cultural, and ethnic group were required to register with the Selective Service System and were subject to being randomly selected by lottery to serve in the Armed Forces. While a relative few declared they were Conscientious Objectors and fled the country, most served honorably. They served with men from other walks of life and backgrounds and through close contact over several years, perhaps inadvertently, learned the personal stories of their teammates. In 1969 there were 398 members of Congress with prior military service.

The Problem

In 1973 the military stopped the Selective Service draft and instituted an "all-volunteer" military. As many of the economic opportunities once sustaining the middle and lower classes were eliminated or shipped overseas, the increasing economic distress led many lower income teens and men to join the military; most children of the "well connected", high income families found well-paying employment and avoided military service. By 1981, the number of members of Congress with military service dropped to 298 and in the new, 112th Congress, that number is now 112.

In 1989, Congress passed a law to give themselves automatic 3 percent annual pay increases, unless they voted to cancel the increase for a particular year, regardless of the economic state of the country.

During at past several decades there has been a growing disconnect between many lawmakers in Washington and the majority of the population they have been elected to serve. With the growing reliance on and influence of highly paid lobbyists in writing or influencing new laws which favor the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of the middle and working class families, proliferation of the use of tax-free offshore havens for the wealthy to use to shelter their money, financial industry mismanagement of the mortgage banking system resulting in a devastating foreclosure crisis, the failure to put into place legislation to control the ever increasing cost of health care and prescription drugs, and the latest insult to a majority of Americans is forcing the burden of saving the economy onto the shoulders of the struggling middle and working class families.

Gerrymandering has created "safe" districts allowing some politicians to only serve constituents in their own socio-economic-political sphere. As a result, some politicians have lost sight of the needs of less fortunate citizens who are struggling to survive in a country which seems to only care and cater to the well-connected and wealthy.

It is obvious that growing number of members of Congress are not "sharing the sacrifice" of the majority of the American population.

A Solution

We have to refocus our politicians on the problem of addressing the needs of and problems facing the full range of American citizens. As a start, I am suggesting that readers of this blog consider asking the following questions, as well as other questions I may have failed to include, of their respective representatives and senators and post the answers (if any) to this blog. Furthermore, I am requesting news organizations to ask these, or similar/additional, questions of the Washington politicians and post a comment to this blog if/when they publish the responses or refusal to respond.

Questions To Be Asked

If you are serious about wanting to end entitlements altogether, will you:

  1. Support/sponsor legislation calling for the immediate increase of the minimum wage to a living wage with adjustments for changes in cost of living? (A decent living wage is necessary for an individual to properly feed, clothe, house, and educate their families to allow them to seek and perform work in the first place.)
  2. Support/sponsor legislation supporting affordable health care for all individuals/families without restrictions for pre-existing conditions? (Poor health will not allow individuals to successfully apply for or continue employment).
  3. Support/sponsor legislation calling for the elimination of age discrimination in employment (makes no sense to raise the retirement without protections to give all the seniors a fair chance for employment up a revised retirement age)?
  4. Support/sponsor legislation supporting quality public primary and secondary education including early childhood educational programs to prepare all children for equal opportunities in the workplace when they are of age?
  5. Support/sponsor legislation eliminating tax breaks for individuals or corporations considered "job creators" unless they can document sustained ( temporary) increase in the number of their employees within the U.S., adjusted downward for jobs moved overseas. (e.g. increasing the net number of employees one year would qualify them for a tax break but reducing the net number of employees would disqualify them from any tax break as a job creator. An increase in the net number of employees by simply acquiring a new subsidiary without new positions created and filled would not qualify them for a tax break. Temporary/seasonal jobs should not count.)
  6. Support/Sponsor legislation to repeal the automatic pay increase members of Congress receive, regardless so of the state of the economy. For example, if for economic reasons, the Social Security recipients, who desperately need one due to rapidly rising cost of living and health/drug costs, are not given a decent cost of living adjustment (COLA), politicians should not be rewarded with a pay increase (even a "deferred" raise).